War Against the South

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You have to wonder when they’re going to start digging up Confederate graves and tearing down the statues of R.E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.  Until then, it seems, the campaign against the Confederacy and the Old South will not be complete.

In September, the University of Mississippi, or Ole Miss, banned the sale of any trinkets, memorabilia, or other gewgaws associated with the school’s former mascot, Colonel Rebel.  A few years ago, much to the chagrin of many alumni, the Colonel, whom the New York Times dubs a cross between Colonel Sanders and Mark Twain, was dropped because of his association with the bad old days of slavery and the evil, racist, misogynist, homophobic Confederates who fought against Saint Abraham Lincoln’s Crusaders.

As the Times reported it, the ban on Colonel Rebel contraband “is part of a longstanding plan to recast the university’s image, still tarnished by its reputation for racial strife in the 1960s, to signal that it is more tolerant and diverse.  Confederate battle flags were discouraged from football games years ago, and ‘Dixie’ is no longer the unofficial fight song.”

“Most people associated with the university are interested in moving forward to an on-the-field mascot that will unify the entire Ole Miss community,” Chancellor Dan Jones told the Memphis Commercial Appeal for a story about the search for a new mascot.  Last year, the Associated Press reported, Jones asked the band to stop playing “Dixie” at sporting events because fans were shouting, “The South shall rise again.”  You can imagine how that frightened the literati in the departments of ethnic and gender studies.  “Here at the University of Mississippi,” Jones proclaimed in a letter to the “university community” (as the AP called Ole Miss), “there must be no doubt that this is a warm and welcoming place for all.  We cannot even appear to support those outside our community who advocate a revival of racial segregation.  We cannot fail to respond.”

Of course, no one, including those who opposed them, took the song or Colonel Rebel as giving a cold, unwelcoming appearance.  Colonel Rebel, alumni observed, was not a signal that the school is intolerant and not diverse.  The Colonel Rebel Foundation labored mightily to save the mascot but, alas, like the men wearing gray and butternut at Vicksburg, lost to the superior forces of enlightened thinking.  Even observing that the Colonel apparently was based on a black man named Ivy didn’t help.  Ever since the school ditched the Colonel, it has been trying to airbrush the mascot from its past and conjure a new one.  In keeping with the maturity level of the modern college student, one suggestion was “Admiral Akbar,” an ichthyic character from Star Wars.  Happily, that idea now sleeps with the fishes.

The campaign continues farther north, in Virginia.  Near the end of September, Gov. Bob McDonnell truckled down to a conference entitled “Race, Slavery and Civil War: The Tough Stuff of American History and Memory” and declared that April will no longer be known as Confederate History Month in the Old Dominion.  Starting in 2011, the alleged conservative announced, it will be “Civil War” month.  McDonnell made the move, he said, to atone for his mortal sin of neglecting to mention slavery in his proclamation for Confederate History Month this year.

Granted, former governors Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, two left-wing Democrats, scotched Confederate History Month, and Gov. James Gilmore, another “conservative” Republican, created something called “Virginia’s Month for Remembrance of the Sacrifices and Honor of All Virginians Who Served in the Civil War.”  But McDonnell’s surrender is particularly noteworthy because of the dust-up over this year’s proclamation back in April.  As reported here in May, McDonnell ducked into the bushes when the NAACP lit the fire under its kettles after McDonnell ignored the “peculiar institution.”  He surrendered almost immediately.  In September, he apologized again.

“My major and unacceptable omission of slavery disappointed and hurt a lot of people—myself included,” whined McDonnell.  “And it is an error that will be fixed.”

As the Washington Post reported, McDonnell viewed the conference “as a chance to reset the tone for Virginia’s observance of the sesquicentennial of the Civil War.”  If that sounds ominous, it should.  Said McDonnell, “One hundred and fifty years is long enough for Virginia to fight the Civil War”—an odd comment given the ongoing campaign to destroy the memory of noble Confederates such as Lee and Jackson, once considered heroes by all Americans.  Moreover, a “modern Virginia has emerged from her past, strong, vibrant and diverse,” he added.  “Now a modern Virginia will take four years and remember that past with candor, with courage and with conciliation.”  How much conciliation is there when a Boy Scout troop, as happened a few years ago, is forced to drop the name of Robert E. Lee?

The Post editorialized that “[I]t took guts for Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) to issue a blunt and humble apology for his ham-handed attempts last spring to minimize the importance of slavery in the history of Virginia and the Civil War.”  McDonnell got what he wanted: approbation from the media elite.

Unsurprisingly, the evil, racist, misogynist, homophobic Sons of Confederate Veterans were none too happy.  Calling McDonnell cowardly, an official observed that “[h]e didn’t have the intestinal fortitude to stand up to his political enemies or the media.”

But like most alleged conservatives in the apology business, McDonnell doesn’t get it.  He could sign a law declaring every day Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, and leftists would neither support him nor shrink from calling him a racist if it advanced their war against American history and tradition.  Apologies go nowhere with the left, which is why McDonnell had to apologize again.  They are, as Capt. Nathan Brittles told Mr. Pennell, a sign of weakness.

It doesn’t take guts to get editorial praise from the Post.  It takes guts to stand up to the withering fire the left would surely have unlimbered had McDonnell skipped the apology and unabashedly and courageously declared that April 2011 would indeed be Confederate History Month.

But as the unhappy member of the SCV noted, McDonnell cares more about climbing the ladder to higher political office than he does about defending Virginia’s past and traditions.

In both cases, the object wasn’t to squash a real threat to diversity, but to uproot traditional Southern symbols.  Symbols and traditions are part of what holds a culture and a society together; the left knows it, and that is why they seek to destroy them.

The War Between the States might be over.  But whatever McDonnell thinks, the war against the South continues . . . 150 years later.

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